Recently, I have received many questions regarding the headlines stating that I will leave the Bachelor franchise if changes to address the lack of diversity in lead roles are not established. You know this is the space where I will always keep it real with you, so I thought I would take it to #honestlyrach to provide some context and fully explain why I’ve come to this decision.
You have often heard me say in interviews that I never watched any Bachelor franchise show prior to being a contestant on it. It is not because I am not a fan of reality television, because I watch a good share of that on the weekly. It is because black people know historically and presently that the show is not formatted for their success. Despite this fact, my co- workers thought I would be the one to go far, and so I said “why not?” The Bachelor was a fun and fulfilling experience for me. It opened my eyes to many new things, I traveled the world, and established new friendships. But when I was asked to be the Bachelorette, I knew this was asking something completely different from me. I ultimately decided to be the Bachelorette because I knew this opportunity was bigger than me. I knew that I wanted to present myself to an audience that had not seen a lead of color in this role. I knew that I wanted to be a trailblazer in this franchise to diversify the lead role, to diversify the contestants trying out and casted for the show, and to diversify the audience watching this show. Well, I am sad to say that after almost four years in this franchise, we still don’t have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves.
Yes, more diverse contestants do appear on the show now, but is the lead truly interested and open to dating outside of their race? I think that is evident by how far their “journey” takes them during each season. It is a naive expectation to believe that leads will authentically start an interracial relationship for the first time on national television. The sad reality is that people of color become placeholders as the token person of color to add some flavor to the second half of the season.
Some ask the question why am I just now realizing how the Bachelor franchise is run? For those who are new to following me, I did not just “wake up” due to what is currently happening in our country. I have always been vocal about the problematic behavior of the franchise and their failure to address their diversity issues; but I stayed with the franchise to be a voice on the inside to push for change. Here are a few examples of me holding the franchise accountable:
1. In 2018, I called out the franchise for creating an emotionally charged finale that baited me for three hours and labeled me as an angry black female.
2. In 2019, at the 15-year Bachelorette reunion I stated “it was sad for me to be the sole representation for women of color.”
3. In 2019, when they chose Peter Weber over Mike Johnson as the Bachelor lead I stated, “when you have a contestant like Mike Johnson, who seems to check all the boxes, how is he not the Bachelor… the system isn’t working in giving us a Bachelor who is a person of color. So we need to change the system. Something has to be done. Break the rules, step outside the box, give the people what they want!”
4. Later in 2019, I stated that I was not hopeful in the franchise naming a second woman of color as the Bachelorette. Specifically acknowledging “that’s why I keep talking about it because maybe it’ll start the conversation and maybe it’ll change…Even after me, you’ve had Seinne, you’ve had Tayshia...Tayshia was number three [of Colton’s contestants]. Usually the system picks one of the top four, why not this time? Before, the excuse would be, ‘No one is making it far enough.’ Now they are. So now what?”
5. And in 2020, I stated, “My biggest complaint is that the show does not reflect what the real world looks like. I would have women of all ages. I mean, there has to be a cut-off point, but I’d have women of different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and ethnicities. I would change it completely.” 1
Although I have been vocal on many issues, I still feel that I have not been loud enough on the deep-rooted, 18-year systemic problems in this franchise. You never want to bite the hand that feeds you, but you also do not want to be aiding and abetting problematic behavior. I am affiliated with this franchise and to be silent on some matters is to still be complicit with these cycles of detrimental conduct. If you saw your brother or sister continually doing something wrong would you not hold them accountable? This is the reason that I have come to the conclusion that if changes are not made on the inside and outside of the franchise, I will dissociate myself from it. I am tired of asking for change and my requests have been ineffective. These changes have to extend beyond casting a lead of color. The whole franchise needs a diversity makeover. These are changes I would suggest:
1. Cast leads that are truly interested in dating outside of their race;
2. Stop making excuses for the lack of diversity and take action to
rectify the problem;
3. Diversify the producers on the show to make your contestants of
color feel more comfortable; and
4. Stop creating problematic story lines for people of color.
Lastly, and maybe the most important action item, the franchise should make a statement acknowledging their systemic racism. The system is not designed for people of color. This is not a shocking or groundbreaking statement when the creator of the show admitted that my season’s lower ratings “revealed something about our fans” and furthermore concluded that it was “incredibly disturbing in a Trumpish kind of way.” 2 Additionally, another representative of the franchise stated that he wants to see more diversity in the show but “it's also irresponsible to walk into something and have rose-colored glasses…“[the franchise] needs to put on people that others want to watch.” 3 Furthermore, he stated, “if I think a million more people are going to watch, you go in that direction. Because that is what's going to sell and be a successful business.” 4 This is the franchise recognizing that they have an audience that does not favorably respond to people of color on the show. This is the franchise blatantly recognizing and admitting that they are perpetuating the problem. They are willing to accept this reality to attract an audience with specific desires in an effort to not lose viewers.
Here is my point…if the National Football League, an organization notoriously known for not standing behind their athletes of color, can come out to make a statement to condemn racism and their systemic oppression and admit they were wrong for not listening in the past, then the Bachelor franchise can most certainly follow suit. Only time will tell how the franchise will respond, but to date they have been silent. Until then, make sure you tune in on Mondays for all the white reasons to watch The Bachelor: Greatest Seasons Ever as it will weekly highlight the very thing that is wrong with this franchise.
~ Honestly, Rach